Please bear in mind this is not an academic article and it is not something I have a great deal of knowledge about.
I do not watch Big Brother and I find the idea of it better than the entertainment value. Most of us are nosey and love being the fly on the wall, having a glimpse into a conversation without expending the emotional energy to become involved. I was interested in the events of this week but more for the controversy rather than the substance. You see, it is something I just know very little about, so little that I am not actually sure how important to us it is. I am sure that a great deal of offence has been caused by his comments. I wonder at what point an opinion crosses the line into crime with the recent discourse into hate crime following Brexit (because as we all know it didn’t exist before then).
During a conversation with another housemate/contestant, Christopher Biggins was captured on camera saying "The worst type though is, I'm afraid to say, the bisexuals... what it is, is people not wanting to admit they are gay."
I am pretty certain there are ‘worse types’ of people out there. As a Police Officer I know that I dealt with some of them. However, digging a little deeper into his comments reveals an assumption that bisexuality is some form of choice rather than a genetic disposition. You see, I take my sexual preference for granted and have given it little thought. I have never questioned it and never felt uncomfortable with it, I don’t think I’ve been judged because of it or disadvantaged by it. My sexual preference is just a non-event for me. I know this is not the case for everyone.
I was totally ignorant of some of the issues surrounding his comments. I actually assumed (wrongly) the ‘LGTB’ group (or community as it is sometimes referred to) had some sort of affinity or connection, but that is not necessarily identifiable from his comments. The term community is often understood in terms of similarity and difference. The following OU (below) report clearly states that the bisexual community faces discrimination from both the heterosexual and gay and lesbian communities. I wonder, therefore, if a false category exists or that it needs further consideration. Perhaps the connection is one of difference to heterosexuality rather a binding similarity (similarity and difference). Whilst few groupings represent total homogeneity I was surprised by Biggins’ comments.
Clearly, his comments are aimed directly at bisexuals because he feels they are choosing to be bi and denying their homosexuality. Therefore, this suggests that there exists only binary opposites of straight and gay, to be anything else is a choice and/or denial. These issues were quite new to me, but it is clearly an important issue. This report by The OU, for instance, highlights various issues I (and many in my circle) had not considered before. Another issue the report highlights is the higher rates of mental health problems, self-harm and suicidal tendencies that exist within the bisexual community compared to other major sexual orientation categories.
The issue of choice is a new concept for me too. I thought sexual preference was innate, fixed and settled. Biggins is suggesting it should be fixed, in one camp or the other. He claims bisexuals are choosing rather than going with their nature. He then comments that there is something wrong with the people who make the choice to be bi, they are deviant because of their choice, being active in the process rather than it being determined by genes. He is saying bisexuals are in denial, they are ‘tricksters’. Sexual preference is usually understood as being more determined by our biological make up rather than from social learning. Do we learn to be gay? Do we learn to bisexual? Have I learnt to be heterosexual? Alongside the choice dilemma then, we also have to understand this issue in terms of the nature v nurture debate. The ‘worst type’ or tricksters are not fooling Biggins it seems.
However, back to the point, this is not the first time Biggins has discussed bisexuality in this way. In an interview in 2014 Biggins said bisexuals were not ‘real people’ because they lead ‘double lives’. He continued that ‘you’re not owning up to what you are. You lead a double life so how can you be a real person?’ Indeed, if I needed clarification of some new found terms I think Biggins may have helped me out. For example, the term ‘biphobia’, apparently a form of negative attitude or behaviour directed at Bisexual people. Other phrases include bisexual denial and bisexual invisibility. Perhaps Biggins has inadvertently shown us how these issues exist and are important rather than alienate the bi community. As I have learnt just a little bit more about the topic, I really don’t think he has come out of this very well. Maybe there are a lot of people who share his opinion, but that is not something I have come into contact with.
However, we are free to make this choice, or are we? Julie Bindel in Straight expectations went against mainstream thinking by stating that there are structural and cultural pressures on people which may force them into a particular camp. People can experiment if that was their will, but who should be involved in that decision? Well, many people according to Bindel, whether friends or family, just as much as the media and governments. I do concede that having a sexual encounter with someone is usually a choice but, I am not so certain that having consistent attractions to either men or women is a choice. Not only then do we see the nature v nurture argument here, we also have a glimpse of the structure v agency debate.
I have learnt a lot today. I am not overly knowledgeable in this area, but I knew this morning I wanted to write about it. I felt that something significant had happened but did not know enough to be able to say what it was. I am uncomfortable with the comments Biggins made and would question whether or not an offence has been committed. I am not offended by it and not because of the choice problem. Maybe my not being offended is a product of the social process and my ignorance. Some claim social change happens slowly, but sometimes rapid change occurs seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, behind the scenes people have been campaigning about issues such as this, but many of us didn’t know. As an aside it seems many people are confused over what/when is acceptable when voicing your opinion and what/when that crosses the line to become hostile or offensive.
Back to my own comfort zone of policing. This difficult topic really highlights the recent need for the police to represent the community (ies) they represent. Society is changing and the police are being expected to keep pace with it. I believe that this is the real crisis in policing, marginally ahead of the budget cuts.